While news of the Apple Watch has been dominating the news cycle, we also learned that Microsoft is in talks with Mojang about a possible acquisition for $2 billion.
This possibility has surprised the people who are familiar with Mojang as it’s a company known for their independent spirit.
Surprising but understandable.
Minecraft has been a best-seller game across every platform on which it is offered — Xbox included. Its iOS version is the highest-grossing paid iPhone app. And some reports suggest Microsoft is very interested in porting the game to its mobile platform.
What most people will miss is that Minecraft is much more than another game. The first analogy that people use is that Minecraft is like Lego. It’s a true, yet unorganized, platform where kids from 6 to 14 spend a big part of their free time. Not just playing, but creating and interacting with other kids.
Mojang has about 40 employees but the Minecraft army is in the magnitude of thousands. These people maintain thousands of public servers hosting multiple different flavors of Minecraft. Created by other thousands of modders (not by Mojang developers) you can find themed virtual worlds: Star Wars, Pokemon, Hunger Games, Harry Potter, the entire country of Denmark, the list goes on and on. All because of Mojang’s laissez–faire, hands-off, create-your-own-world approach.
There’s obvious value in Mojang for its sales — its 2013 revenue was $326M — but the value of the community that comes attached is worth more than that $2 billion price tag. I expect that Microsoft knows this well and that they hope to pay a bit more attention to the community. Mojang has been known to work at its own pace, with a long backlog of features that in some cases have taken years to release. A server mod API, for example, has been in the works for awhile and has no scheduled release date.
With the right strategy and resources Microsoft has the opportunity to amplify this amazing creative platform. When personal computers arrived Windows was so ubiquitous that Microsoft Office became a very popular creative suite. Perhaps Microsoft can turn Minecraft in a new creative suite for the next generations to come.
We at Playful Data feel very lucky to be in the convergence of these events as we launch Playful. It’s a platform that allows kids to create and maintain online profiles that showcase their creativity, teamwork and playfulness. And we’re excited that Minecraft is our starting point. We start by creating a baseball-card type profile where kids share their Minecraft skills, creations, favorite servers, etc. And from there, Playful will soon evolve to capture other gaming platforms as well as online and offline activities that showcase the best of every kid.